By Brian Karimi
Darlene. You might not know her, but you probably do. She swipes your card at West Dining Hall as many as ten times a week: Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch.
For a little over a decade, Darlene has been a fixture at West. Having been the cashier for that entire time, there is likely no single other person at Union who has had as much exposure to the classes coming through.
As I sat near her station Tuesday morning, I watched her interactions with students. I was amazed to find that I wasn’t the only one who had become close with her. And our ritual—the “Bye, Darlene!” followed by her “See you for lunch!”—was not uniquely ours. She did this with many students.
I don’t usually eat at West for lunch, but she says it anyway. And the one day I did come? Well, she was very happy.
You might not notice her. But she notices you.
“This freshmen class,” she joked as I gulped down my oatmeal, “let me tell you.” I love when she starts stories this way.
“They’re the nicest, most outgoing class I have ever seen.” She went on to explain how freshmen greet her right as they walk through the door. She has noticed how special this new class is.
Some of them ask her to remember their names.
“I’m working on it,” she says as she tidies up her station. She makes remembering their names seem like a bit of a chore, but I know her too well to buy it. She secretly loves it, because it means she’s getting closer to students.
She spoke of the cosmetic changes to the front end of West: giving her a bigger cashier station and moving it from her right side to her left. She mentioned the redesigned My Zone room, which contains foods for those with special dietary needs.
These changes may seem small, but they are major when compared to the changes of previous years. I tell her the article is about her, but she wants to tell me more about West. She gets excited.
“Maybe it’s because I’m a people person, but they’ve always been so friendly,” she says when I ask her what has been constant about students over the years. “It’s why I come to work.”
I probably wouldn’t believe it if anyone else said it.
“Will you stay for lunch?” she asks as I pack up.
“I’ve got to go learn about taxes,” I retort.
“Okay. Well, at least fill me in.”
Brian Karimi, World Views Editor